- Governed by the rule of law and guided by the principles of human rights, the security sector players are mandated to abide by and implement the laws produced by the duly constituted authorities.
In a democratic society, the security sector plays an important role in guaranteeing public order and safety.
Governed by the rule of law and guided by the principles of human rights, the security sector players are mandated to abide by and implement the laws produced by the duly constituted authorities.
On the other hand, an elected parliament is another important feature of a democratic polity.
It has the mandate to represent the people and dutifully pursue matters of public interest.
As democratically elected representatives of the people, among its many mandates, parliament is tasked with overseeing the state apparatuses authorized to bear weapons for the protection of the state and its people, more specifically the military, police, intelligence services, prisons, border security and private security companies.
It is the parliament’s role to ensure that the security sector is effective and accountable.
As the primary agency for law enforcement, the police operate in close proximity to the public and exert significant influence over the security of individuals and communities through their behaviours and performance.
Therefore, ensuring accountability of both the individuals and institutions of the police is a fundamental condition for the good governance of the security sector in democratic societies.
The parliament, as the highest representative body in a democratic system, and its committees play a significant role in maintaining police accountability.
This has been emphasised in international and regional conventions and codes of conduct.
Indeed, in Kenya, parliament apply their generic functions of law-making, oversight and budget control to the organisation and functioning of the police.
While parliament is not the only external accountability mechanism, outside the executive and outside the police, it is one of the most important forums for public accountability of the police.
We all agree that if the security sector is well governed, it can be characterised as an effective and accountable sector capable of fulfilling its mandate to protect society against internal and external threats while respecting the rule of law and human rights.
On the other hand, a poorly governed security sector is characterised by multiple security and accountability deficits, including over-inflated security establishments that are difficult to support financially, but frequently constitute a major political and economic force; lack of transparency and accountability; inadequate defence planning, poor management and budgeting capacity in both civilian and military institutions.
Other aspects are a long history of human rights abuses by security forces and a tendency for security forces to act with impunity; corruption; an insufficient number of civilians capable of managing and providing oversight of security matters; and inadequate professional development.
Furthermore, political interference by the security forces and politicisation of security forces by civilian actors are two sides of the same coin, reflecting major deficiencies in the security sector.
The current Kenyan constitution and the various mechanisms thereof provide a strong framework to hold the police accountable to Parliament and the citizenry.
The constitutionally-guaranteed fundamental rights of the citizens, an independent judiciary, and the media ensure that the excesses of police authority are adequately checked.
Several other institutions (e.g. the IPOA and various Parliamentary Standing Committees and State Assemblies) also provide accountability mechanisms.
All these mechanisms generally work, though ineffectively.
The problem is not in the methods, but in the people who execute them.
Our elected representatives do not act on behalf of the citizens always as is required and, on several occasions, fail to pursue citizen complaints.
Indeed, the elected representatives themselves have acquired notoriety for such behaviour.
The term “criminalisation of politics” has taken root in Kenyan discourse.
This phenomenon involves not just charge-sheeted criminals entering legislative assemblies, but also the fact that a significant number of the members of parliament are beholden to criminal elements.
There is good reason to believe that criminals are entering politics in order to use political power to stymie investigations against them.
Another example is the lack of seriousness exhibited by members in the proceedings of the House.
Discussions on substantial issues, and even deliberations about the bills introduced in the House, are not taking place adequately.
We have also seen, the Government simply pushing bills through parliament having them voted on amidst the “din and furore” of the House.
Most members of Parliament seem to look upon their responsibilities primarily as distributors of patronage rather than as policy-makers.
Let us not allow Parliament to be ineffective in holding the executive responsible for the administration of the country and by extension the security sector.
Dr. Humphrey Young, PhD Public Policy & Development Expert